Let’s talk about the F-word….Finances.
Finance, for the purpose of this article, will refer to but is not limited to the management of money personally or professionally. I know that you are probably cringing right now but truth be told the lack of economic understanding and financial literacy has led to severe crises across the economic spectrum in this country. The topic of personal finance as well as business finance has made even the most astute scholar uncomfortable. Why? Because the subject of finance (or money) is an area where the majority of people have a few skeletons in the closet so to speak. Quite frankly, there are some financial issues that we all struggle with and many times have problems facing the truth. From the poorest individual to the wealthiest, we all have room to grow and “step our financial game up”. Here are a few questions that will help you determine if it’s time to reevaluate your financial position.
- Are you an emotional spender?
- Do you know how to balance a check book?
- When was the last time you checked your credit score?
- Are you investing, if so what are you investing in?
- Are you living within your means or are you keeping up with the Joneses?
- Do you know the difference between an asset and a liability?
- Have you created a monthly budget?
- Do you have a savings account with funds to cover at least three months expenses in case of an emergency?
- Do you have a plan in place for retirement? How much debt do you owe?
Change is inevitable.
Again, I know that these are tough personal questions and sometimes evoke strong emotions but that is a good thing because these emotions are an indicator that change is inevitable. I would like to encourage you to take a few moments and grab a sheet of paper and honestly answer the questions above. If you answered “No” to any of the questions, I have great news for you! You have made the first step in becoming aware of your financial position and well on your way to being contagious in your finances!!!!
Being contagious with your finances has nothing to do with the dollar amount in your bank account, the amount you have in stocks and bonds, or the current lifestyle you live. Being contagious with finances is about accountability and responsibility and becoming a good steward of what God has entrusted each one of us with. In Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the Talents can be found and it provides sound wisdom and a foundation for the subject of finances (if you have time please read it for yourself.) Nonetheless, this particular story has several key observations:
- God provides us with everything we need, we have to learn to be responsible and good stewards over what he has given us, and this includes money.
- God provides each of us with the ability to attain wealth so there is no excuse for laziness and idleness. There is an overwhelming amount of information available on the web, through non-profit organizations, and religious organizations to help turn your financial situation around.
I would like to admonish you to seek trustworthy and reputable counsel and ask for help if you want to or would like to make changes concerning your financial outlook. In addition, if you answered “Yes” to any of the questions above, Great job! I would like to applaud you on your hard work and would like to insist that you remain consistent and seek to help others get to the level that you have achieved.
I would like to offer the follow strategies to help you get started.
- Create a budget. Take an honest look at the money flowing in and out of your bank account. Make a list of all of your monthly expenses. This means everything that you spend money on. Then subtract the total from your monthly income. If your expenses exceed your income, let’s look at ways to decrease your expenses such as lowering monthly entertainment, stop eating out as frequently, limit shopping to only include necessities, etc. On the other hand, if your monthly income exceeds expenses, place the extra money in savings or use it to pay down your monthly debt. There are several good online budgeting tools available to help you get started.
- Research and create a plan to pay off debt, starting with highest interest rate debt first. www.daveramsey.com and www.suzeorman.com have great tools and tips to help you pay off debt.
- Increase your savings and create a separate emergency fund. These accounts are to act as supplemental funds to your monthly income. Plan to fund your savings account with three months to a year of your total monthly expenses, just in case there is a lapse in employment for any reason. Plan to fund your emergency account with $1000 to $3000 just in case a short-term emergency arises. Do not worry if you don’t have a savings or emergency fund at these levels just yet. This is only a goal and you should set the amounts for each account based on your own personal needs. However, I would advise you to start small. Begin saving $20-$25 per week and as your disposable monthly income increases, raise the weekly amount you save. The key to savings of any kind is persistence and discipline. Keep at it and watch your money grow!
- Seek credit counseling and debt management help. You can begin by visiting the National foundation for Credit Counseling at https://www.nfcc.org/. (Disclaimer: to avoid debt management scams check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website (https://www.bbb.org/) for reputable companies and never work with a company that charges upfront fees.
- Educate yourself. Research and become more acquainted with financial terms and literature. It will change your lifestyle and you will begin to feel more empowered and contagious in your finances!
Being Contagious With Change,
Dr. Taaka Cash, DNP, MPH, MSN, RN, FPMHNP-BC is certified through the American Nursing Credentialing Center as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) in Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatry with prescriptive authority. Visit www.PrivyOasis.com to learn about her practice.